The good, bad, and ugly of the latest Energy & Commerce bill

Today the House Energy and Commerce Committee set to work doing markup on a yet-to-be-named energy bill. CEI’s William Yeatman breaks down the good, the bad, and the ugly of the proposed bill. See the proposed bill here.

The good: The bill includes some positive regulatory reform in language that would streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines. By far the best part of the legislation is §1102, which would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission enhanced flexibility if EPA’s war on coal threatens electric reliability.

The bad: Title III, concerning energy security and diplomacy, would waste government resources on an North American “energy security” plan, as if participating in a global market is inherently bad. And a section within Title I would allow the Energy Secretary to pick winners and losers in the cyber security industry, something the government does poorly.

The ugly: Title II, concerning the 21st century workforce, would create a vocational program for energy jobs in the Energy Department, even though the 2009 stimulus demonstrated the futility of such programs. Worst of all, §1105 would create a boondoggle in the form of a “strategic reserve” for large electric transformers in a quixotic effort at mitigating risk.

Overall, this energy bill is nothing to write home about. Only a minority of legislation’s provisions are welcome reforms.

At heart, serious (and seriously beneficial) congressional energy policy must be a function of regulatory reform. And most of the regulatory regimes that need to be reformed so that they comport with common sense, are pursuant to environmental and land management statutes. This is to say: For Congress to truly improve energy policy, it must aim at the Interior Department and EPA, rather than the Energy Department and FERC, which is what this House bill does.